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Commentary
Dig deeper together
for change
From the Minneapolis Labor Review, February 27, 2021

By Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, President,
Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation

As we slowly reach the one-year mark of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, our need for resiliency remains as important as ever. One thing is clear: we are exhausted. Frontline workers are exhausted. Parents are exhausted. Those out of work and underemployed are exhausted.  The real struggles and fear that working families have endured over the past year are unimaginable. Just the sheer uncertainty of the situation is exhausting in itself.

Back in March of 2020 — when our economy, workplaces and healthcare systems were shocked — we hunkered down and stood with each other in radical solidarity. And we are still doing that today.

Now, we find ourselves in a place where we must not only endure what this deadly virus has created in our day-to-day lives, but we must also organize and build a road to recovery that changes our broken systems.

We’ve said many times that this pandemic has exposed weaknesses in our workplaces and in our economy that we have known all along were already failing workers. Going back to normal is not the goal. Building a new normal with a more equitable economy, safer workplaces, stronger protections and time to care is the real goal.

Going back to normal is not the goal. Building a new normal with a more equitable econmy, safer workplaces, stronger protections and time to care is the real goal.

It is time for us to demand that the value of our work is fully recognized. Far too many just now have realized that all work is valuable, regardless of position or title or role.

We cannot let this be a fleeting moment of praising our frontline heroes, but rather a call to fully compensate and recognize those that keep our economy going, even amidst a pandemic. The workers who never got to work from home have risked their own safety and the safety of their families to provide us food, deliver goods, care for our children and parents — and they deserve more than a temporary pat on the back.
We also must advocate to recognize the work of caring for our families and our communities. For too long care work outside of a workplace has not been considered real work. Studies have shown women bear the majority of domestic work and family care in the home. This pandemic has only exasperated that divide. Just as we were making some progress on pay equity, women now are leaving the workforce at an alarming rate, which will force us backwards in pay equity again.

Notably, the impacts of this pandemic have not been equal. Workers of color, black workers and immigrant workers have disproportionately faced the worst consequences of not only the disease itself, but also its impact in our workplaces. They are more likely to get seriously sick, more likely to work on the front lines in low-paying, dangerous environments, and more likely to be laid-off with little to no access to unemployment. This is unacceptable and needs to be central to recovery and rebuilding.

Here at the MRLF, we have seen the strength of our labor movement and workers throughout our community. We see you and are so proud of the WORK you are doing during this moment. We hope to encourage you to persevere and dig a little deeper so we can see the changes that all workers deserve.

Together, we can pass the PRO Act at the federal level to strengthen workers’ ability to organize. Together, we can reform OSHA and make our workplaces safer. Together, we can add value to all work. Together, we can stand with each other on picket lines.

In this critical moment, even when we think we can’t bear anymore, we need to do just a little bit more  — together.

Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou was re-elected December 11, 2019 to a second four-year term as president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

Contact MRLF president Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou at 612-321-5670 or chelsie@minneapolisunions.org.

 



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